Timeline of Hong Kong's long road to democracy

Early 1980s: China and Britain began negotiating the transfer of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration states that China can appoint Hong Kong's leader on the basis of "elections or consultations to be held locally".

Late 1980s: By then, there was a strong undercurrent favouring democracy in Hong Kong, writes historian Steve Tsang in his book A Modern History of Hong Kong.

1997: Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule. Its mini-Constitution, the Basic Law, states that the "ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures".

2004: Hong Kongers staged several protests, requesting universal suffrage in 2007.

On April 6, China's legislature makes an interpretation of the Basic Law, adding a requirement that the chief executive must justify the need for any democratistion, and it will then decide.

On April 26, it rules out direct elections for both the chief executive and the legislature in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The timeline was shifted to 2012.

2007: Beijing lays out a roadmap saying it will allow Hong Kongers to directly elect their own leader in 2017 and their legislators by 2020. Pro-democracy activists express disappointment at the again-delayed timeline.

Jan 16, 2013: Law professor Benny Tai, in his weekly column in the Hong Kong Economic Journal, writes a piece headlined "Civil disobedience, the most lethal weapon", to push for "genuine universal suffrage".

He calls for "people power" to be galvanised as a last resort. Up to 10,000 will occupy financial district Central to pile pressure on the government.

Mar 24: Beijing hints that elections will not be entirely free. Officials' stipulation that Chief Executive candidates must "love China, love Hong Kong" spark fears that China will allow only those it approves of to run, ruling out those from the pro-democracy camp.

Mar 27: Together with sociologist Chan Kin Man and Baptist pastor Chu Yiu Ming, Dr Tai officially starts the "Occupy Central with Love and Peace" campaign.The trio start a series of workshops and "deliberation days" where supporters and members of the public discuss its agenda and goals.

Jun 9: Occupy Central has its first meeting, attended by some 700 people. Begins logistical planning ranging from locating toilets in Central for protesters, to recruiting marshals to help maintain order and peace.

Jun 10, 2014: Beijing issues a controversial White Paper on Hong Kong saying the city's "high degree of autonomy" is subject to the central government's permission, and refers to judges as "administrators" who had to be "patriotic" in carrying out their job. It raises fears over whether the principle of the rule of law might be breached.

Jun 30: Occupy Central organises an unofficial referendum in which 800,000 people vote in favour of greater democratic freedoms.

Aug 31: China releases strict rules on how candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive should be vetted.

Dr Tai admits that Occupy Central had "failed" in using the threat of action, but vow to push on, declaring that Hong Kong had embarked on an "era of civil disobedience" including mass sit-ins.

Sept 22: University students begin a week-long boycott of classes.

Sept 26: Around 150 student protesters storm government headquarters and occupy a courtyard in the complex. Police use pepper spray to repel them. The protesters defend themselves with their now emblematic umbrellas.

Sept 28: Occupy Central joins the students, announcing that it has begun its civil disobedience campaign. A major road opposite government headquarters is taken over by protesters. In response, riot officers fire tear gas, propelling hundreds of thousands to join the protest in anger.

Dr Tai acknowledges that situation had "gone out of control".

Over the following days, protest sites are established at Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.

Oct 21: Government officials and student leaders - who want public nomination - hold two hours of televised talks but there is no breakthrough.Occupy Central organisers try to exert moderating influence on the student leaders, including getting them to focus on the composition of the nominating committee but to no avail.

Oct 28: The Occupy Central founders return to work at their universities, but say they will continue to return to the protest sites.

Nov 11: Chief Secretary Carrie Lam says "no more room for dialogue with the students" and calls on them to leave protest sites.

Nov 18: Following the issuance of court injunctions taken out by the private sector, bailiffs and police clear a protest area in Admiralty.

Nov 25/26: Bailiffs and police clear the Mong Kok site.

Nov 30/Dec 1: Protesters try to escalate their action by surrounding the government complex and occupying a new road, resulting in violent clashes with police.

Dec 3: The trio and some 60 of their supporters surrender themselves to the police, saying they want to bear the consequences of their actions. They admit to having taken part in a rally from Sept 28 and might have broken laws under the Public Order Ordinance. By surrendering, they hope to mark an end to the civil disobedience they advocated. It is also to show that they respect the rule of law, though they disagree with certain laws. But the police released them without being arrested or charged.

Dec 5: Tai urges protestors to negotiate a compromise with the government in exchange for universal suffrage in 2022 CE election. 

Dec 6: Joshua Wong, the teenage face of the movement, ends a four-day hunger strike meant to goad further talks with the government. 

Dec 8: Crowds dwindle at the main protest site in Admiralty as news filter in that a mid-week clearance by police could be on the cards. 

Dec 10: With the imminent clearance of the site on Dec 11, a small pocket of demonstrators remain outside the government headquarters.  

Dec 11:   Hong Kong police dismantle the Admiralty main protest site, clearing away tents and barricades after more than two months of rallies, and hauling off a hard core of protesters who vow that their struggle lives on

xueying@sph.com.sg